Mitt Romney’s ridiculous “binders full of women” soundbite is certainly getting the bulk of the attention in today’s recaps of last night’s presidential debate (and, it’s worth noting that he straight up lied about requesting those binders in the first place). But it was his anecdotal focus on women in the workplace needing “flexibility” that struck me as most galling. The candidates were asked the following question: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” After Obama answered first (you can read the full debate transcript here), Romney followed up his “binders full of women” story with the following:
“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you. …
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”
Romney still sees working moms and wives are homemakers first, and that what they do in addition to that as secondary. That if we’re gonna have ladies workin’ outside the home, we have to make sure they have the flexibility to get home in time to cook dinner or else having a job is not an “opportunity” that they can “afford” to take. (As if men aren’t perfectly capable of cooking for their wives and children; my father and mother both worked outside the home and split the task of cooking for the family pretty evenly down the middle.) It’s certainly true that mothers who work outside the home — because they have to, because they want to, or because they are indispensable in their field – would benefit from more flexibility (but so would fathers!). But the fact that Romney chose this particular point to focus on (instead of pay equity, for example) speaks volumes about how out of touch with and dismissive he is of the average working woman.
These women were not havin’ it and neither am I.